If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
We’ve been hearing a lot about trying to live at peace with each other lately. From messages on how to handle conflict to a couple on forgiveness and reconciliation. Now this idea of living at peace. I hope that we all know the importance of forgiveness, even Jesus commands that if we don’t forgive that person we are in conflict with, we won’t be forgiven. But understanding the need for forgiveness, and knowing how to get there are sometimes two very different things. How do you bridge the gap and start talking again?
Last Tuesday I attended a conference that was put on be the Peacemaker Ministries. This conference was hosted by the Central NY association of the Wesleyan Churches, but I was able to finagle an invitation, and it was a very good conference. Peacemaker works with churches and corporations dealing with conflict. I learned some tips on opening up some conversations, as well as a fairly simple process for achieving peace again.
First, let me point out that not all conflict is a bad thing. Some conflict or tension is healthy. It stretches us and grows us, gets us working together, and brings unity. Other tension is unhealthy and creates division, causes disrespect, and pulls us apart, often involving sinful behavior. Sometimes it’s possible to turn the unhealthy tension into healthy tension by just recognizing it before it gets too bad. Rubber band principle. If it’s unhealthy, it can be made healthy, up until it snaps.
Once it snaps, there are four steps to resolving conflict. Story – Ascend – Reflect – Connect.
Story – everybody has a story. Find out what their story is, let them talk. If you’re at odds, I can almost guarantee that they don’t see things the same way you do. So let them tell you how they see it. Let them take as long as they need, start back as far as they need, and don’t interrupt when they tell their story. We all have different upbringings and different histories. We all see things differently. And it’s by understanding how they perceive things that will shed some light on the conflict. Sometimes it’s helpful to write out the story, underline the basic facts that everyone agrees with, then circle the emotional memories, the statements that have their basis in emotion. Find some common ground in the story, a place to build on. You probably won’t find perfect unity, but common ground gives you a start point.
Ascend – In the Ascend step, you go to God. You find pertinent verses about God’s presence, His sovereignty, His character, and your identity and calling in Christ. Pray together to find God’s purpose and calling.
Reflect – Personal reflection on the conflict should be aimed at finding where you need more understanding, to identify your blind spots, what are you missing, what are you contributing to the conflict, what can you overlook and leave at the cross, and what needs to be dealt with. How can you walk humbly, love mercy, and act justly, in this conflict?
Connect – The connect step is where you work together with the one you’re in conflict with to find a way to move forward again. There are steps here: Asking, confessing, seeking, and forgiving. Ask how you have hurt them, confess using I statements, seek forgiveness from the other person, and truly forgive them, entrusting your pain to God, and giving up any desire for vengeance, any bitterness and resentment, and showing them grace.